HAWKSVILLE - One and it’s done.
That’s it for the Hawks.
Win one more game (Friday against Indiana at Philips Arena) and the race for the fourth spot and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs is done.
But believe it or not, the Hawks could have something even more important going on at Philips Arena tomorrow night in the form of Marvin Williams returning to action after a 16-game absence because of a lower back injury.
Williams had what was initially believed to be an injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the season. But he’ll be back, possibly tonight against Indiana and certainly by the playoffs.
I’ve seen all the chatter back and forth around here about Marvin not being missed (back when the Hawks rolled through that March homestand unblemished and without him). Then the tide changed and the Hawks’ struggled and the pro-Marvin crowd resurfaced to campaign for their guy.
I’m rollin’ with the pro-Marvin crowd on this one folks.
Show me a team that doesn’t want to be at full strength and I’ll … well, you can’t. No one in the NBA is that foolish. You think the Celtics would rather play without Kevin Garnett? Or the Lakers would rather play without Andrew Bynum? I don’t care that they’re winning without him. They’d rather have him that not.
Same goes for any team that’s without a starter this time of year.
And one last time, heading into tonight’s games the Hawks’ magic number for that No. 4 spot is one. One more win by the Hawks, or a loss by both Miami and Philadelphia locks that spot up.
On to some other news:
ROAD WINNERS - In the aftermath of the Hawks’ successful two-game road trip to Toronto and Milwaukee a discussion stirred about when was the last time the Hawks won road games on back-to-back days? The Mad VP and his crew took it a step further Thursday with some research that turned up and even crazier nugget than I imagined.
November of 1988 (that’s right, 1988 not 1998) is the last time the Hawks won back-to-back road games while also overcoming halftime deficits. Sometimes, I honestly forget just how deep the pool of futility has been for Hawks fans the last 15 years or so.
Most of us were in junior high or something the last time the Hawks pulled of what they did this week.
It’s stunning when you really think about it.
JOE “CRUNCH TIME” JOHNSON - Much has been made of the Hawks’ (over)reliance on captain and All-Star Joe Johnson on the offensive end of the floor. And I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like it for all sort of reasons (too much heat on your best player and star, marginalizes the talents of four other guys on the floor, gives defenses an easy scouting report to defend you, etc.).
On the flip side, Johnson does rank among the league’s elite players in fourth quarter scoring (he’s among the top six). The other five guys on the list are Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Brandon Roy. Not bad company. Unfortunately, Johnson also leads the league in minutes this season, too.
PRACTICE SQUAD - You don’t often hear about the work that the guys that don’t play in games do behind the scenes. But when I hit the practice floor for practice Thursday morning, I first noticed Marvin on the floor working out with the seven other guys in an intense half court game. The very next thing that struck me was how hard Mario West and Solomon Jones were going at him, almost like they were testing him for the Indiana game.
And they didn’t let up the entire time. West is a practice demon, a guy that never eases up – which is why I’m never surprised to see him inserted into a game to change the pace. He’s gone after Bryant, James and anyone else Hawks coach Mike Woodson has felt like throwing him at this year.
Williams was certainly appreciative of their work. “Those cats go so hard,” Williams said. “Rio is like that when he walks into the locker room for practice. He’s always going 100 miles an hour. And Solo has done this all year. Normally, I just watch those guys go at it on practice days like this. Right now, though, I need them to help me get it back. So I’m just glad all these guys are here.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a whole lot of West tonight against Indiana.
Williams will probably see limited minutes if he does return. And Mo Evans is not expected to be with the team due to a personal family matter, so West might actually be inserted into the starting lineup if the Hawks decide to stick with their normal set instead of using the big lineup with Zaza Pachulia with Al Horford and Josh Smith across the frontline.
With just one game needed to secure that fourth spot and home court advantage, West might be just the energy boost the Hawks need to help them get past these sluggish first half starts that have plagued them recently.